Friday, April 25, 2014

April 24 2014 Ramble Report

Today's report was written by Hugh Nourse, with photos by Don Hunter.  You can find all of Don's photos of today's ramble here.

Today was one of the few days we had shirtsleeve weather for a ramble, and over twenty showed up for many readings plus recipes, and a wonderful spring ramble.  We rambled through the International, Endangered Plant, Physic, Heritage, and Flower Gardens to the Orange trail spur, then down to the Orange Trail and up to its end in the Upper Parking Lot.

Emily, Kittie, Rosemary and Hugh all brought readings and Martha shared some recipes. Click here to see these readings and recipes.

As we entered the International Garden we found lots of Southeastern Wildflowers. There was Blue Star (Amsonia hubrechtii), Coreopsis spp., Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana), something in the pink family, the tall white wild indigo (Baptisia alba), and what looked like a hybrid with the Baptisia austrailis). Above our heads was a beautiful silverbell  (Halesia diptera var. magniflora).

Crossing the flower bridge, we found an Oconee azalea in bloom.  The label was Oconee
Wild Azalea

azalea (Rhododendron speciosum), but that name has been replaced by Rhododendron flammeum.  Our next stop was the plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium) in the Endangered Plant Garden.  It is supposed to bloom in mid to late summer, but here it was in full bloom, although it was the only one of four plants of this species in bloom.  Next to it was another Oconee azalea (Rhododendron flammeum). I wonder if the blooming azalea is not really another Oconee Azalea, in spite of the name plate.

Georgia rockcress (Arabis georgiana) was spreading beyond where it was first planted.  Only
Georgia Rockcress
28 sites for this plant are known in Alabama and Georgia. Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) was blooming behind it.  On the sand hill Hairy Rattleweed  (Baptisia arachnifera) was just coming up. It is an endemic plant in Georgia known only from 2 counties (I thought it was only one county), but the area is around Jesup, GA.  Much of it is on Rayonier land.  This paper company is known for pollution problems on the Altamaha River, but in this case they seem to be looking after the plant.  It was Jennifer Ceska's research project for her MA thesis.   Hairystem Spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis) was in bloom.  Next to the sand hill in a robust mound was Gray Rosemary (Conradina canescens), a mint.  The ragwort (Packera anonyma) was beginning to bloom also.

On the way to the Physic Garden we found many escaped Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), which a number of Ramblers spent hours removing from the Dunson Native Flora Garden.  This plant is on the National Park Service "Watch List" of potentially invasive plants in the Mid-Atlantic states. Click here to go to the entry on Spanish Bluebells.

In the Physic Garden a number of species of Camassia were blooming.  One native in Georgia is similar but a different species.  It can be found along the Boardwalk of the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail at the Pocket at Pigeon Mountain.  There are a number of species, one of which is the deadly Death Camas.

A lovely sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus) was in bloom, which reminded Hugh that another
southern name is "Booby Bush" because the fragrance enticed women to use it for decoration on their bosom.

Martha had talked about the sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) that was used for white wine at Mayfest.  She found it in bloom in the Physic Garden in amongst the Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majali).

Sweet shrub, Yellow variety
On the way to the Heritage Garden we discussed the source of the cultivar Calycanthus floridus 'Athens.'  This yellow flowered cultivar was placed in the horticulture trade by the noted UGA horticulturist Michael Dirr.  It originated from a plant growing in the Brumby's Garden in Dogwood.

Pawpaw was not doing much, only a few small flowers remain and there is no evidence of fruits
Red Buckeye inflorescences
forming. Nearby we saw Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) with many beautiful inflorescences and talked about how it is usually a coastal plain bush.  It is pollinated by hummingbirds, so during Spring migration Steve Bowling has suggested that they come north and pollinate the painted buckeyes (A. sylvatica) creating hybrids.  No such hybrids occur in the Coastal Plain.

Native Wisteria
Rambling through the Flower Garden we found the native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) beginning to bloom on the bridge to the Meditation Garden. This is not an invasive plant, unlike Chinese Wisteria.

 Along the woodland path were
beautiful blooms of Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).  It was interesting because both the form with maroon stripes on the spathe and the one with darker green stripes were present.  The plant in the photograph to the left is unusual in that it has five leaflets instead of the more typical three. Click here to learn more about the fascinating sex life of this strange plant.

 The Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata) were also blooming.  The other dwarf iris (Iris verna) that blooms in the woods in Georgia does not get much use in gardens.  I wonder why?.  It is beautiful with an orange mark where the crested iris has a crest. 

An opened Oak Apple gall
At this point we picked up an oak apple, which is a gall produced when a tiny wasp lays an egg in an Oak leaf. The plant tissue responds by producing an inflated ball, usually about the size of a golf ball. The gall is hollow except for a bit of plant tissue suspended in the center of the otherwise hollow chamber. The egg is within this bit of tissue and when it hatches the larva feeds on it, eventually growing large enough to form a pupa from which an adult wasp will emerge. The mystery is how such a specific structure is produced.
By living suspended inside the gall the larva is out of reach of parasites that might attack it. 

 Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) was doing its thing, but not massed as in some places.

Proceding through the deer fence and down to the bridge across the creek we noted the fruits beginning to form on the Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) where we saw blooms two weeks
ago.  The beech trees that were just getting their leaves and with some old leaves two weeks ago, were now fully dressed in their new green leaves.  We admired the new green leaves of hepatica (Anemone americana), and mourned the disappearing yellow three parted violet (Viola tripartita).

Crossing the bridge we noted more Mayapple and Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
was still hanging on.  The latter hang on a long time.  Some remarked that these late Anemone flowers seem to be smaller than the earlier blooms. That's something we'll have to look for next spring. In this stretch Bob Walker noted the moss, Forrstroemia trichomitria), growing on a muscle wood tree. Lee pointed out a group of Pipsissiwa, or spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata).  Across from it was a great example of wild yam (Dioscorea villosa).  We talked about whether it might be edible, but it is not edible unless cooked!  The raw roots may cause vomiting and other undesirable side effects. "Wild yam contains diosgenin, used to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs.  Interestingly, most of the steroid hormones used in modern medicine, including those in many oral contraceptives were developed from chemical components contained in yams.  

 Emily pointed out a buttercup, which at the time Hugh called a kidney leaf buttercup
Hooked Buttercup
(Ranunculus abortiva), but on reflection and looking at the Tennessee Wildflower book was probably Hooked Buttercup (Ranunculus recurvatus).  Across the creek adjacent to the liverwort (Conocephalus conicum) Lee noted a blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)

Emily was the first to find a little brown jug at the base of a Little Brown Jug (Hexastylis asarifolia) plant.

We noted the yellow root (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) had passed their bloom time.  After
Bisexual Wild Geranium

Female Wild Geranium
passing over the bridge over the side creek (Copperhead Creek?) Wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) began to appear in profusion.  The Wild Geraniums here are of two types: female flowers lack stamens (see photo to the right) while other flowers are "perfect" (have both female and male parts, stamens and pistil) -- see photo to the left. (more about this peculiar situation later).

 Someone asked about the red flags, which are part of a research project on Geraniums.  Here, also were Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera) and Southern Lady Fern (Athyrium asplenioides).

Crossing the creek we appreciated the natural garden around a downed tree which included a lot of Rue Anemone, a few blue star, a redbud sprig, and poison ivy.  Someone pointed out blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)  which in this case was white.  We had found a blue one earlier.  Hugh noted that blue-eyed grass is a member of the iris family.

A number of rattlesnake ferns (Botrychium virginianum) with fertile fronds enabled Hugh to talk about how the rattlesnake ferns have a fertile frond growing from the intersection of the three leaves.  In the similar Southern Grape fern the fertile frond starts below the intersection of the three leaves and may even seem to come from underground.

At this point Hugh remembered a plant everyone should see, but which was passed by without
Zephyranthes atamasco
notice. Reversing the whole line of folks we went back about 50 yards to get a good view of the amazing rain lilies (Zephyranthes atamasco) that were blooming in an easily missed seepage area about 10 yards off the trail.

Our final stop near the upper parking lot was to discuss the successional forest in that area.  There are pines, but the hardwoods are beginning to take over. Rosemary pointed out the very large sparkle berry (Vaccinium arboreum).

From there we moved to Donderos for snacks and great conversation.


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